Germany’s Gateway

With Hamburg’s Congress Centre (CCH) closing for a major two-year €197m (US$206m) renovation project set to make it Germany’s biggest convention centre by 2019, the city is not breaking its conference stride and has plenty else to offer international planners.

This exciting city on the Elbe is opening up on many other meeting fronts, providing a northern European gateway for organisers looking for a real port city experience in 2017.

Germany’s second largest city recently celebrated the opening of its ‘Elbphi’, or Elbe Philharmonic Hall, a €700m monument honouring the city’s port history with its maritime design. It has 4,000 rooms spread over 120,000sqm, although planners will have to fight their corner with the culture vultures who have first dibs on most of the rooms.

I was one of the first to have the privilege of staying in the adjoining 250-room Westin hotel and sample the amazing city views, local cuisine (including the wonderful lobskaus), large spa and event space.

Elbphi is part of HafenCity/Smart City, the largest development project in Europe and a 21st Century model for urban innovation and sustainability. A new cruise centre is shaping, berthed next to new hotels and restaurants.

A ride on one of the city’s ferries will give you an even greater city perspective and, no doubt, an appetite for the fare of the Fish Market.

If you’re looking for a venue with a difference down on the docks, try Schuppen (Shed) 52, a great blank canvas and right in among the old wharves and warehouses. Or celebrate aboard the Bleichen, an old museum ship restored to the tune of €3m and ideal for a party.

Airbus employs 17,000 workers at its Hamburg factory complex, which also has room for that special event and can offer expert speakers and a tour of its plane-making shop floors. The city recently hosted the 7th Aviation Forum.

At the top political level the city recently hosted the two-day OSCE Ministerial Council meeting at the Hamburg Messe. Bernd Aufderheide, president and CEO of the Messe and Congress Centre described it as an “exhilarating experience and a great honour to host such a high-profile event”.

And the ‘Brahms in Hamburg conference hit a high note for the Manhattan String Quartet’s annual meeting (read the details on the Hamburg Convention Bureau website).The event emphasised the alignment between the conference programme and the destination’s ability to deliver a heightened experience and good ROI.

There is much more to explore out of conference hours, including Gothic buildings, merchants’ mansions, parks, the harbour and famous Reeperbahn in the gritty St Pauli City District. There is no lack of live music and entertainment venues, just as in The Beatles’ day.

At the five-star level, the Grand Elysée provides a grand backdrop for meetings. Entering the lobby is like entering a private mall and the artwork inside the hotel is quite special.

And coming on stream later in 2017 will be the five-star Fontenay on the shores of Lake Alster. A 27m atrium and a 1,000sqm spa will be part of the boutique experience thanks to a €100m investment from local entrepreneur Klaus-Michael Kuehne.

In common with many port cities, Hamburg continues to re-invent itself, including for business tourism. My advice, if you haven’t been already, is check it out before everyone else arrives at CCH in 2019!


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Paul Colston

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Managing Editor, Conference News & Conference & Meetings World. Write Paul an E-mail



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